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Judge refuses to dismiss Michigan same-sex marriage case

July 01, 2013

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman on July 1 denied the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The suit was brought by Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple hoping to marry legally so they can have joint custody of their three adopted children. Michigan law allows a single person to adopt, but not an unmarried couple, so the women’s children are limited to one parent unless DeBoer and Rowse can wed legally.

Wayne State University’s Distinguished Professor of Law Robert Sedler is consulting with attorneys Dana Nessel, a 1994 Wayne Law graduate, and Carole Stanyar, who represent DeBoer and Rowse.

“The judge reviewed the facts and the positions of both sides, and concluded that the constitutional challenge states a plausible claim,” Sedler said. “He set a scheduling conference for Wednesday, July 10, at 3 p.m. to set the dates for further proceedings in this case.”

In his opinion denying the state’s motion to dismiss the DeBoer case, Friedman cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples to same-sex couples who are legally married in 12 states.

“The Supreme Court has just invalidated a federal statute on equal protection grounds because it ‘placed same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage,’” Friedman wrote. “Moreover, and of particular importance to this case, the justices expressed concern that the natural consequence of such discriminatory legislation would not only lead to the relegation of same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status, but impair the rights of ‘tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples,’ as well. This is exactly the same type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.”

DeBoer and Rowse are entitled to have their day in court, the judge said.

To reach Sedler for comment, contact Shawn Starkey at 313-577-4629.


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